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Genesee County considers use of AI to analyze bridge reports with $30K subscription

By Joanne Beck

Think what you will about the use of artificial intelligence for making up silly random songs and possibly helping to write that late-night term paper, but there are certainly more cutting edge, time-saving uses for the technology.

Just ask Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens. He recommended that the county purchase a $30,000 subscription to an AI service that will analyze state Department of Transportation bridge and culvert reports, identify problem areas and help county personnel potentially whittle a job from 12 months down to two or three weeks.

Tim Hens

"So after the first of the year, we're going to upload all of our bridge inspection reports to the company. And they're going to use the AI software to just quickly analyze all the pictures and the data. And there's, I mean, each bridge probably has a 15- to 20-page report that comes with it, they're gonna go through each report, look at all the pictures that AI literally scans the photos,” Hens said after Monday’s Public Service meeting. “And I don't know how exactly it works. Yes, the software can detect things. I mean, you know, a human could detect it as well if we were going through it, but it's literally 1000s and 1000s of pages. And we only have two or three people. And we have other stuff like a jail and a water project that are being built. So you just nip away at it. And you might get through two or three a week. But we've got 374 bridges and culverts that have got to be inspected. And then someone's got to go through those reports. So this is kind of a quick way. 

“Again, using AI software, which is brand new to the industry, to review all of those pictures and photos and then just spit out a report saying okay, you've got 20 bridges that have concrete abutments that need repairs, you've got 10 bridges that have bad bearings, you've got two bridges that should be painted, and here's the costs, and here's the locations,” he said. “It's got to be fixed. And it's pretty impressive. It literally will do in two to three weeks what it would take two to three humans to do all year long.”

He’s got faith in the company, Dynamic Infrastructure, which is just breaking into New York State, with Genesee County being one of the first counties to use this technology. He knows that some are using it in Iowa and Minnesota, with some counties here investigating it, “but I think we’re one of the fist ones in New York State” to be using it. 

“I’ve seen a demo multiple times. I’ve been through an hour-long presentation on it. It’s very impressive,” he said. “It’s gonna be, I think, a good tool for us, hopefully moving forward.”

It is about prioritizing, he said, and will also involve some strategy once he can see what kinds of repairs are needed and where.

“Because if you have similar repairs on bridges, but they're spread out in seven or eight different locations, you might just issue one contract. You know that the contractor might go from bridge to bridge to bridge fixing the exact same thing in six different locations, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than putting out six different contracts and then having six different contractors, piecemeal, yeah, so it's going to allow us to kind of, you know, kill two birds with one stone, and probably get a little bit of bang for our buck too, because you're gonna be hiring a contractor to do 10 locations as opposed to one at a time,” he said. “So I think it's gonna be a really powerful tool.”

The Public Service Committee agreed with his recommendation and moved the resolution on to Ways & Means, and then it will go to the full Legislature for a final vote that Hens recommends further analyzing county bridge and culvert inspection reports with artificial intelligence software to quantify and estimate repairs identified in the reports.

Hens has evaluated a proposal for this work and has recommended the purchase of an annual subscription to this service from Dynamic Infrastructure of New York, NY, at a cost not to exceed $30,000 for the period from Jan. 1, 2024, through Dec. 31, 2024.

He doesn't believe that it will be necessary to have a yearly subscription, so once the brunt of the work is done and details obtained, it can be canceled until the county needs updated information, he said. 

The contract will be funded by the Large Span Culverts Capital Project, which has an available balance of $2,739,357.

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